VANCOUVER – The last time Sidney Crosby played at Rogers Arena, he sent an entire nation into a frenzy.
It was only fitting that he took over a game in the same building on the very day that Canada announced its roster for the Sochi Olympics.
The Penguins captain scored late in regulation and added the only goal of the shootout Tuesday as Pittsburgh rallied to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-4.
Both goals came at the same end of the arena where Crosby buried his memorable overtime effort in the gold-medal game against the United States at the 2010 Olympics.
“It’s hard not to think about it when you’re out there,” said Crosby, who was among the 25 players named to the Canadian roster for the 2014 Games. “I remember it a little differently with the way the rink was set up and everything but (it’s) still a great memory.
“(You) kind of put it in the back of your mind though because there’s some other important things happening in the next little while.”
One of those things was helping to rescue the Penguins after the Canucks scored goals 17 seconds apart to take the lead with under seven minutes to go in the third.
“That hurt. That was tough to give them that much momentum late in the game like that,” said Crosby. “We found a way. It’s not the position we want to be in.”
But Pittsburgh did Vancouver one better by tying the score with goals 16 seconds apart from Kris Letang and Crosby.
Letang’s shot from the point beat Canucks goalie Eddie Lack with 1:11 to go in regulation before Crosby banged a puck home with 55 seconds left on the clock.
“From the bench it took way too long to get it off his skate and to his stick,” said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, who passed Eddie Johnson to become the Penguins all-time wins leader with 233 victories. “I wasn’t surprised by the celebration in that corner.”
Said Lack: “We gave the best player in the world an open net with a minute to go. That can’t really happen.”
Crosby then moved in on Lack in the shootout and fired a quick shot home.
“You don’t want to put yourself in that position, but if it does happen, if you are faced with that, you need to find ways to get out of it,” said Crosby, who also had an assist. “To be down two with that much time left, we knew we had to get two quick ones and we found a way.”
Evgeni Malkin and Brian Gibbons also scored in regulation for Pittsburgh (32-12-1), while Jussi Jokinen added two assists for a Penguins team that won their third straight and leads the Eastern Conference standings.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is with our team, we always believe we can come back,” Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said after finishing with 22 saves. “I just try to stop the next puck and our chance to win is always there.”
Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian and Christopher Tanev each had a goal and an assist, while Jason Garrison also scored for Vancouver (23-14-8). Lack made 31 saves as the Canucks lost their fifth game in a row.
Tied 2-2 in the third, Vancouver looked to be on its way to its first victory of 2014 when Higgins beat Fleury through the five-hole on a breakaway with 6:53 left in regulation for his 12th and Kassian swatted another shot past the Penguins goalie at 6:36 for his eighth.
“I want them to keep their heads up. There is no sense whining about it,” said Canucks head coach John Tortorella. “There’s no sense looking for excuses. We just have to keep trying to get better as a team. There are a number of things I know this coaching staff is going to try and build on. “
Lack made his second consecutive start for Vancouver in place of the injured Roberto Luongo, who suffered a suspected ankle injury against the Los Angeles Kings over the weekend.
Luongo, who was also named to Canada’s Olympic team along with Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis earlier in the day, had just returned to the lineup after dealing with a groin issue. Chris Kunitz, who plays on Crosby’s line, also made the cut.
Down 2-1 after two periods, Vancouver tied the score at 7:39 of third when Tanev’s shot from the point beat Fleury through traffic for his fifth of the season before the teams engaged in a wild finish.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “We were in good position and had a pretty good third period. It all happened so quickly I don’t know what happened.”
With Pittsburgh leading 1-0 after the first period, Fleury made a breakaway save on Canucks forward Jannik Hansen early in the second. The Penguins broke back the other way with Malkin beating Lack on a shot through traffic for his 12th of the season at 5:25.
Fleury had a bit of luck a bit later in the period as Canucks defenceman Yannick Weber rang a shot off the post, before Letang found iron behind Lack.
Letang had two more great chances to extend the lead, but Lack made a couple of huge saves before Garrison cut the Penguins’ advantage in half at 15:35.
After Crosby blindly threw the puck in front of his own net right to Garrison, the Vancouver defenceman ripped a shot by Fleury for his fifth of the season and first in 14 games.
Gibbons opened the scoring at 13:15 of the first period after Hamhuis failed to control the puck at the Pittsburgh blue-line. Playing on a line with Crosby and Kunitz, the undrafted 25-year-old free agent out of Boston College raced in alone and beat Lack for his second goal of the season in just his 11th NHL game.
Vancouver has had a habit of giving up late leads this season, having surrendered goals against on six different occasions with the other team’s goalie on the bench for an extra attacker.
“This one was a doozy. It is what is it. That’s what is around us,” said Tortorella. “We are going to try to exorcise it and get it away from us. I thought we showed more confidence tonight. Day by day we will try to get better.”
Notes: Fleury was Canada’s No. 3 goalie at the 2010 Olympics, but didn’t make this year’s squad. … Crosby was still recovering from his concussion issues when the Penguins made their last visit to Vancouver at the start of the 2011-12 season. … A total of seven Canucks will be heading to the Olympics. Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with Alexander Edler, will suit up for Sweden, while Ryan Kesler (U.S.), Weber (Switzerland) and Hansen (Denmark) will also take part in the tournament. … On the Penguins’ side, Malkin (Russia), Jokinen and Olli Maatta (Finland), and Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin (U.S.) will compete for their countries. … The Canucks recalled Joacim Eriksson from the American Hockey League to serve as Lack’s backup with Luongo on the shelf. … Garrison’s goal was his 100th NHL point.